Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whole Lotta Bakin' Going On

I’ll admit it. I’ve been lazy lately. I’ll blame the heat for part of it. It’s just been too hot to turn on the oven and bake anything. My air conditioner struggles to keep the house cool when I don’t have the oven on. But I’d been craving some jam thumbprint cookies. The weather finally cooled a bit (if you can call 90 degrees cool), so I decided that it was baking weather. Time for thumbprint cookies!

The reason behind the cookie craving was a photo I’d seen in one of my French cookbooks. I am one of those food nerds who flip through cookbooks and drool over all of the photos (not literally). The photo of the cookies always catches my eye. According to the cookbook, they’re very easy to make and inexpensive. I love that French cookbooks often tell you the ease of the recipe and how much you’ll be spending on it.

Jam thumbprints can be pretty boring and often need a bit of jazzing up. How did I jazz up mine? Apricot mango pepper jelly. With red pepper flakes in it. I picked it up from Joanie, of Ohana Favorites, at the farmers’ market. Sweet and spicy all at the same time. Perfect.

The cookies turned out a little less sweet than others I’ve made. I attribute this to the use of a French recipe. European sweets are often less sweet than American ones. That works for me. After trying several thumbprint cookie recipes, this is the one I’ll probably be sticking with. Plus it is very easy and inexpensive!

Petits-four a la confiture
(Jam Thumbprints)
Adapted from Francoise Bernard’s Ma Cuisine d’Aujourd’hui (Hachette Pratique)

Scant 1 cup flour
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4 tbsp sugar
1 large egg, separated
¼ cup jam
Pinch of salt
Ice water, as needed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar until they lighten. Add the egg yolk, flour and the salt. When the dough becomes too thick to beat with a spoon, continue mixing by hand.  If the dough is too crumbly and doesn't hold together, add ice water 1 tsp at a time until the dough just comes together.

Make walnut-sized balls of dough and place them on a greased or lined baking sheet. Make an indentation in the middle of each ball with your finger or the handle-end of a wooden spoon. Divide the jam evenly among each ball of dough, just filling the indentation.

Lightly beat the egg white with a fork, then brush the beaten egg white over each of the dough balls. Cook for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan once. Allow to cool on a rack. Makes about 24 cookies.

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